The last two years saw the world come to a standstill with countries undergoing lockdowns, with planes grounded and uncertainty looming. The world of work surprised us even more with digital disruption, remote working, and the great resignation. The need for an employee experience strategy rose as companies learned to adapt to the challenges brought about by the pandemic. As one of my mentors once said, “Only people feel pain”, and thus the period was also not without pain in the workforce; Cabin fever, pandemic fatigue, remote work, labor shortages, and record levels of employee turnover were all part of our vocabulary in the “New Normal”. These transformational changes have disrupted the professional structure, and we will see their cascading effects for years to come.
So, as we continue to learn and adapt to the new normal, here are my predictions of what transformational trends 2022 will bring and how businesses can turn them in their favor.
But first, let us break down the critical building blocks of our working ecosystem – Workplace, Workforce, and Work.
The Enticing Back-to-Office setup (Workplace)
As more and more companies are experimenting with hybrid work structures, the employee experience (EX) continues to shift and evolve. Research by Gartner shows that 75% of hybrid or remote knowledge workers say their expectations for working flexibly have increased, and four out of 10 employees are at risk of leaving if you insist they return to an in-person office environment. Most employees have settled into their home offices and are understandably reluctant to return to their pre-pandemic routine. However, many still crave the intellectual and social stimulation of face-to-face in-office encounters.
Companies will learn to create a hybrid workplace, more and more employees will have work office setup and as collaboration tools advance further, place of work will have less significance in our lives. Instead, employees will choose the place of work, the time of work and the tools to maximize productivity and efficiency.
Offices will have more meeting rooms than desks to facilitate workshops, in-person brainstorming and team building.
Infosys has advised our key clients on the “Next Generation hybrid collaboration workplace” to provide simplified anywhere, anytime employee experience and collaboration across the enterprise.
Attrition/Retention vs Development (Workforce)
With an unprecedented number of employees making a switch, the great resignation is the elephant in the room that needs to be addressed. But, of course, there can be many reasons for this trend, whether frustrating work conditions or enticing new opportunities.
Most organizations are grappling with retention by enticing their workforce with money and incentives. My view is while compensation is one of the drivers and motivation for the workforce, a sustainable enterprise will not be built on foundations of retention but growth and development.
If there is one thing that employees and organizations lacked in the last two years, it was “Learning & Development” and “Culture”. A quick report would demonstrate that while employees had flexibility during the previous two years, the pickup rate for corporate training has been one of the lowest in decades.
In 2022, employers must put the focus back on learning and development and ensure employees feel they are growing, learning, and developing. There is no better stickiness for employees than growth. Infosys has been working with global clients in democratizing our learning platform and helping large organizations in building their “Future Workforce”.
The most important aspect of remote or hybrid working with so many new joiners and lateral hires is maintaining and building a unified culture. Large enterprises are known for their culture that has been built over decades, if not centuries. However, new-age organizations and a globally dispersed workforce require innovative thinking and dedicated focus to create a unified culture. I will share a few initiatives that we implemented in Infosys in the last two years that helped us ride the tide.
- Micro-moments – We ensured that colleagues took some micro-moments out of their daily lives to just chit chat with each other, talk about their experiences and feel connected.
- Leadership Roster – Each senior leader was assigned a group of individuals to connect and speak to periodically (on rotation). This created a culture of care, and people felt connected even when they were geographically dispersed.
- Virtual meet-ups – We have all seen zoom videos of employees celebrating their Fridays together and so did we. Still, we also used these evenings to call out our new joiners and let them share their experience, veterans to talk about what is about Infosys that made them stay for 10 years and beyond, talk about the projects and big wins so that people get a view of the culture and type of organization we are.
They also want to see important initiatives like D&I as more than just a tick mark. Employers need to work towards building a corporate culture that breaks the barriers for deserving employees rather than creating new ones. It is also crucial for companies to focus on ‘perks’ that matter. The pandemic highlighted the importance of benefits like healthcare, education, childcare, and flexibility. Therefore, we will see an increased focus on value-based corporate perks that support employees in their hardships.
The Digital, Data and Automation (Work)
In the pre-pandemic era, businesses focussed mainly on cost reduction and profitability—this involved international collaboration and out-sourcing. However, since the pandemic started, the global supply chain has been adversely affected, and the talent market is no different. As a result, businesses have been trying to regionalize their operations to avoid dependence on international suppliers and operating units. In addition, companies are increasingly investing in automation and AI to enhance smart manufacturing, leading to fewer jobs.
Although technology can never replace the human mind and intellect completely, this emphasizes the need to add a more diverse workforce in the mix of technical know-how. Research indicates that 86% of employees and 66% of business leaders assert that a diverse workforce will become even more critical as roles, skills, and company requirements change over time. In addition, people worldwide are reskilling to match the changing technological landscape to be more productive and tech-savvy. Business leaders can use this to their advantage and address the widening talent gap with innovation and empathy.
Therefore, it is equally vital for us to ensure we give opportunities to our workforce for new-age work. Automation will streamline all the processes and data will become a key proof point for all decisions.
2022 will be the year when we reflect on the previous two disruptive years to understand and innovate the way forward. Business leaders who rise to the occasion by understanding these fundamental building blocks, adapting to the changing needs, and making transformational decisions can win the talent wars and create a more significant, competitive business.
Managing Partner APAC
Anmol has over 20 years of consulting experience leading large-scale engagements for client accounts. He has been a part of Infosys Consulting since 2003, where he started as a Principal Consultant and rose through the ranks to Managing Partner, APAC. He specializes in helping large financial services companies transform their core banking implementation, target operating model, go-to-market strategy, business case and value realization.